Laws 1921, Chapter 53 created the State Child Welfare Board, which was the predecessor of the modern Department of Child Safety (DCS). DCS was created in the Second Special Session of the 51st Arizona Legislature (Laws 2014, Second Special Session, Chapter 1) by significantly revising A.R.S. Title 8.
The purpose of DCS is to protect children. From 1972 through 2014, this function was under the direction of the Child Protective Services (CPS) Division of the Department of Economic Security and included investigating reports of abuse or neglect, overseeing the adoption process, running juvenile courts, working to ensure a stable home for children and providing a variety of services, including preventative work with family members, treatment services, and intervention when necessary.
Laws 1921, Chapter 53 created the State Child Welfare Board, consisting of five members, at least two of whom had to be women, appointed to five year terms. The Board was authorized to hire a secretary to investigate social service problems, as well as enter contracts with non-sectarian institutions for the care of children, though that was contingent on a member of the State Board becoming a Board member of the non-sectarian institution. The Board was charged with overseeing child placement and adoption as well. The Superior Court was responsible for appointing four person Child Welfare Boards at the county level. The Board was also charged with providing assistance to any “widowed or abandoned mother” of a child under 16.
Laws 1923, Chapter 35 updated the Board membership to only three commissioners, at least two of whom had to be women, appointed for two year terms. Revised Statutes Chapter 40 (juveniles and child welfare) consolidated child welfare law in statute, joining the Superior Court’s authority over juvenile proceedings given by Laws 1912 1st Special Session, Chapter 63 (Article 1) as well and joins it with child welfare statutes (Article 2) under the same chapter (and eventually title).
Laws 1933, Chapter 35 repealed Revised Statutes Chapter 40, Article 2 and rewrote the child welfare law. A five member Board, at least one of whom had to be a woman, was appointed and served four year terms. While much of the language is outdated, many of the duties mirror today’s DCS. The Board members were charged with inspecting and licensing private institutions (orphanages, foster homes, etc.), as well as investigating reports of orphaned or neglected children, though they were allowed to hire more than a single secretary. The Board was also authorized to act as the legal guardian of any child who fell within the legally defined parameters of its power without getting a court order.
Laws 1937, Chapter 69 renamed the Board, changing it to the Arizona Board of Social Security and Public Welfare, while adding some duties to the existing responsibilities of the Board. The requirement of at least one female Board member was dropped and terms for Board members were reduced to three years. The Board was additionally tasked with creating a program that provided medical assistance to children considered crippled or suffering from conditions that would lead to being crippled.
In 1941 an update to the law provided the Board authority over all child welfare agencies (Laws 1941, Chapter 57), including formulating standards for child care and services for children, performing health inspections, and overseeing the licensing of agencies. The update also empowered child welfare agencies, if so authorized by their licenses, to accept children under their care and place them in family homes. The agencies were further able to provide legal consent to adoption, provided the child welfare agencies had permanent guardianship and that the parental rights had been terminated or relinquished.
A major revamp occurred in 1948 with the creation of the Department of Public Welfare (Laws 1948, 7th Special Session, Chapter 20). Terms for Board members were changed to five years and members were compensated beyond expenses incurred in the performance of their duties for the first time since the Board’s creation.
Laws 1949, Chapter 30 established the Arizona Children’s Colony.
Laws 1970, Chapter 205 established significant portions of statutory language relating to adoption and child safety. Rules regarding the adoption process were modified to ensure thorough screening of potential adoptive parents, as were the rules and procedures governing the process (i.e. consent, court hearings). Statutes addressing child welfare and placement were also updated, including standards of treatment for children in foster homes and processes for termination of parent-child relationships.
Laws 1972, Chapter 142 created the Department of Economic Security (DES), replacing the Department of Public Welfare. Several minor changes to A.R.S. Title 8 were enacted after that (Laws 1985, Chapter 243; Laws 1993, Chapter 155; Laws 1999, Chapter 347; Laws 2000, Chapter 155; Laws 2001, Chapter 6), but major changes did not occur until 2014.
Laws 2014, Second Special Session, Chapter 1 established DCS. The measure was drafted after the discovery of a backlog of over 6500 cases involving potential child abuse or neglect and Gov. Brewer publicly urged lawmakers to make DCS a stand-alone agency. A departmental director of DCS appointed by the Governor has largely replaced the Board, and a director-appointed community advisory committee was established in statute (A.R.S. §8-459).
Measures addressing placement of a child were enacted in 2017 and 2018. Laws 2017, Chapter 130 required background checks before DCS could place a child with a relative or person who had a significant relationship with the child. Background checks were also required for all adult household members and all adults having caregiving responsibilities for the child. Laws 2018, Chapter 153 required DCS to consider the best interest of a child with regard to placement, outlined criteria for making such decisions, and required DCS to take steps to notify relatives of a child taken into temporary custody.
Measures regarding reporting were enacted in 2017 and 2018. Laws 2017, Chapter 282 established the six-member Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on DCS to review implementation of policy, procedures and program effectiveness. The Committee terminates July 1, 2025. Laws 2018, Chapter 282 required the Auditor General to include information regarding the differences in caseworker caseloads between department field offices in reports due in December, 2020. That measure also required DCS and the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board to prepare a joint report on collaborative efforts to address child welfare issues of common concern. The joint report was due to JLBC by February 1, 2019.
Laws 2019, Chapter 135 expanded fingerprinting requirements for anyone who provides services to juveniles or vulnerable adults. A second measure enacted in 2019 authorized DCS to establish an extended foster care program for young adults who are 18, 19 or 20 years of age. The measure prescribed eligibility requirements, and outlined DCS responsibilities and reporting requirements (Laws 2019, Chapter 262). A third measure required DCS to provide behavioral health services as part of its comprehensive medical and dental care program to eligible children if federal and state funding is available. Contains conditional enactment clause. See Laws 2019, Chapter 305.
- Arizona Revised Statutes §§8-101 et seq.
- Arizona Administrative Code §§R21-1-101 et seq.
- Session Laws
- Laws 1912 1st Special Session, Chapter 63
- Laws 1921, Chapter 53
- Laws 1923, Chapter 35
- 1928 Revised Statutes, Chapter 40
- Laws 1933, Chapter 35
- Laws 1937, Chapter 69
- Laws 1941, Chapter 57
- Laws 1948 7th Special Session, Chapter 20
- Laws 1949, Chapter 30
- Laws 1970, Chapter 205
- Laws 1972, Chapter 142
- Laws 1985, Chapter 243
- Laws 1993, Chapter 155
- Laws 1999, Chapter 347
- Laws 2000, Chapter 155
- Laws 2001, Chapter 6
- Laws 2014, Second Special Session, Chapter 1
- Laws 2017, Chapter 130 and Chapter 282
- Laws 2018 Chapter 153 and Chapter 282
- Laws 2019, Chapter 135, Chapter 262 and Chapter 305
Related Collections at Arizona State Archives
- Record Group 037- Department of Economic Security